November 17, 2023
It is with profound sorrow that the Rice family announces the loss of its beloved patriarch, James Ed Rice, who passed away at home in Smithville, TN on November 17, 2023, at the age of 87.
James Ed was born on June 29, 1936 in Lebanon, Tennessee. He was the oldest of two children of Baxter and Wille Close Rice. He grew up and attended school in Smithville where he was an enthusiastic member of the DeKalb County Tigers football team. He was a member of the First Baptist Church. He is the father of five children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. In addition to his adored wife of 59 years, Lillian Elizabeth Gothard Rice, he was predeceased by his parents and sister, Mary Jane Windham.
His memory will be cherished dearly by his surviving family members – son James Ed Rice, Jr. (Jim Ed) and wife Benni, son Joe Marshall Rice and wife Norma, daughters Trina Rice Graham, Tammy Rice Allen and husband Steve and Terre Rice Puckett and husband Jason; granddaughters Lee Elizabeth Rice Stonestreet (Andrew) and Andrea Austin Rice Davis (Bobby), grandsons James Ed (Jed) Rice III, William Gregory Graham (Katie), Paul James Allen and Daniel Jason Puckett, and great-grandsons Beckett and Ben Stonestreet.
Words cannot convey how deeply we will miss his counsel, encouragement, and support but we can cherish the fond memories of our time with him. The way he motivated and inspired us. The way he uplifted us and made us laugh. Mostly, we will remember how loved and secure he made us feel.
In his younger years he served as a page in Congress before enrolling in the Marion Military Academy in Alabama. He received an appointment to the West Point Military Academy that was cut short because of the potentially life-threatening illness of his mother. He had lost his father at the age of 17. Despite these adversities and a humble beginning, he went on to many accomplishments.
An entrepreneur in every sense of the word, James Ed had a knack for business and was successful at it. He had a gift for connecting with and motivating people. He had a natural magnetism that led people to believe they could achieve more than they ever expected. He was positive, optimistic, and very intelligent. He had a one-of-a-kind personality and people wanted to be around him. He started and ran numerous businesses employing thousands of people and enriching the lives of those with whom he worked. He was a very positive influence in the lives of numerous people.
Starting out with a $300 loan from his grandmother, James Ed began his career selling nursery stock door-to-door and landscaping houses to support himself while attending college at Tennessee Tech and Middle Tennessee State University. His drive and persistence served him well. He was a trail-blazer and a creative problem-solver who relished a challenge. He achieved success with his early endeavors and parlayed it into a janitorial contracting business that eventually encompassed several hundred thousand square feet of federal office buildings in Washington, DC. This business evolved into military logistics and food service contracting, servicing hundreds of contracts and the largest military food service operations in the US.
Along the way, he started and participated in numerous other ventures including a local bank, a chain of fast-food restaurants, real estate investments, and the local DeKalb County hospital among others. He seemed to have a sixth sense of how to make ventures work.
At an early age he was active in local politics on the DeKalb County Commission and was instrumental in its reapportionment and in securing the Model Cities Program designation for Smithville. He was a founding sponsor of a Little League team and remained as one of its longest-term supporters.
James Ed loved his work and his community but more than anything his wife and children were the light of his life. He was devoted to his wife, Lillian, who had been his high school sweetheart. He admired her goodness, hard work, and accomplishments in education and music. He had a zest for life and he enlivened and brightened every room he entered. He will be sorely missed by the many people who knew and loved him.
The family would like to thank our beloved physician, Dr. Hugh Don Cripps, the Family Medical team, and all of our dedicated caregivers, current and former, for the compassionate care and kind attention given to our father. Sincere thanks to current caregivers, Faye Neville, Tina Waggoner, Connie Linder, and Marylin Mashburn. We would also like to thank home health nurse, Brandi Cantrell, and the team at Adoration Home Health.
Visitation will be Sunday, November 19, from 1:00 to 4:00 at Love-Cantrell Funeral Home and Monday, November 20, at the chapel of the First Baptist Church in Smithville from 1:00 until the time of service at 2:00. Dr. Chad Ramsey will officiate. Pallbearers will be James Ed (Jed) Rice III, William (Will) Gregory Graham, Paul James Allen, Daniel Jason Puckett, Robert (Bobby) Wilson Davis, and Randy Gothard.
Interment will follow at DeKalb Memorial Gardens.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, First Baptist Church, or God’s Pantry.